Usually engaged in combating left wing extremism and law and order situations, jawans of the Bihar Military Police (BMP), the ‘armed’ unit of the state police, are engaged in another kind of battle these days.
They are up in arms against the Bihar State Power (Holding) Company Limited (BSPHCL), a state government undertaking, which has cut off the power supply to their residential quarters in western Patna over unpaid dues.
Earlier this week, the BMP jawans took to the streets and blocked the road near their residential campus in western Patna, demanding immediate restoration of power supply to their quarters on the campus.
This protest action, unusual for an armed police unit, came two days after the BSPHCL disconnected power supply to 257 BMP staff quarters in Phulwarisharif locality, citing energy dues totaling Rs. 5.14 crore!
A senior BSPHCL official said out of these 257 quarters, the dues of 160 total over Rs. one lakh each. “We had given a notice asking the BMP authorities to clear the dues by August 17 but to no avail”, he said.
Around 35 government departments collectively owe over Rs. 800 crore to the BSPHCL, a company floated by the Bihar government a few months ago to regulate power affairs, against energy consumed till March 31 this year.
However, BMP’s additional director-general (ADG) of police Abhay Kumar Upadhyay, said the dues dated back to several years and had been metered in the names of quarter occupants who had either retired or died.
"The energy arrears stand in the names of individuals, who have run up the dues. The BMP has nothing to do with it. We pay our office energy charges regularly," he added.
Asked who then would pay the Rs. 5.14 crore dues, Upadhyay said: "The power firm has clubbed the private commection bills of jawans (serving and retired) together. It should segregate the bills and recover dues from the users. Our jawans have been told to pay for the period they have been occupying the quarter."
The power firm, on the other hand, insisted that despite reminders, the BMP never intimated it about transfer, retirement or death of its quarter allottees, mainly jawans of BMP battalions 5, 10 and 14.
Even though the BMP has now advised its jawans to apply afresh and take new energy connections, the power firm remains adamant on its "no money, no power" stand.
As the BMP jawans went without power for the sixth successive day on Friday, a senior BSPHCL officer said, "We are firm on not restoring the power supply till all our dues are cleared."